Friday, July 30, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
One of my rabid fans (I have so many, you know, it's hard to keep track) asked me about my current caregiver, and since I don’t think I ever really posted about it (there was a lot of trauma going on at that time), I am happy to oblige. Because, you know, I’m very accommodating like that. Also, I am her #2 fan, right after Jellybean, so I am more than happy to sing her praises.
I was very lucky to have a nanny for the first year and a half (give or take a month) of young Jelly’s life. It was a somewhat stressful time, as I couldn’t really afford it. What my household budget didn't cover I made up for out of my savings account, which disappeared much faster than I expected. I was also adjusting to being a working mom, having a (stranger) in my house M-F, and dealing with my sweet little baby snuggling up to someone else. Eventually, as with all good things, the awesome nanny got fed up with the long work hours, dealing with me, and empty promises of raises and quit. There are some posts from last fall if you are interested in how much I cried and raged over this (yes, I’m a crier, I’m a Cancer if you couldn't tell). I knew I couldn’t afford another nanny, plus I was ready to have my home back to myself. I was very against home daycare as a permanent solution; I wanted reliable, and consistent, and educational, and social. Not a lot to ask, right? Of course that’s in addition to healthy and caring and loving and all those things. But those first few, those were the ones I thought I’d have trouble with in a homecare provider.
Then I got to experience the nightmare that is Touring Daycares as a Past Daycare Teacher. I only went to two locations, and that was it. I knew that wasn’t what I wanted. To be fair, I went to two super-crappy daycares (no, I didn’t know it at the time, duh). To be fair, there are lots of great centers out there with terrific programs and good directors and wonderful teachers. And if anything ever happened with Miss D, that is probably the route I would go, because I could never love another caregiver the way I love her, and my heart would be broken. But at the time, it was traumatic enough dealing with the idea of not having Jenny at home with me 24/7, let alone looking at dimly-lit depressing overcrowded dirty rooms with sparse broken toys and beanie-wienie lunches. Ok, maybe it wasn’t really THAT bad, but in my mind I might as well have been abandoning her in a Russian orphanage. In winter. And she was hungry and sick. See, it was really stressful.
Here in Raleigh we moms have a really great online support network, the Triangle Mommies group. I am torn between loving and hating them. I love them because they led me to my current group of bestest mommy friends ever in the whole world, the CSMs. Because of TM I have a circle of about half a dozen people I feel incredibly close to and supported by, more girl friends at one time than I’ve ever had, and if I was less judge-y I’d have even more (if you read my blog, you’re one, don’t get all worried or feel left out). The group provides a wealth of knowledge, experience, and advice from all kinds of mommies just like me – confused, scared, and learning every day. However, they are also kinda censor-y, which I am really against. You can’t always speak your mind on the forum, and if you do, you are reprimanded. That ain’t cool. People post stupid shit all the time just to get attention or validation, and I don’t have time for that nonsense. If I wanted to listen to inanities I’d talk to Jelly’s Dora toys.
I turned to TM in my search for a childcare provider, hoping that I’d get some decent leads, and quickly. Since the economy was in the crapper, there were a lot of moms who were doing home care, and messaged me themselves or recommended friends. I talked to a few women but none seemed right. One seemed ok, but she watched some other kids so I worried Jelly wouldn’t get much attention or be able to go anywhere. Her house was smaller than others I’d looked at. She had dogs. I found a billion little tiny things that weren’t perfect, but decided to try it out.
I couldn’t be happier. It should have taught me a lesson in being less judge-y, but obviously it did not because I'm still a jerk most of the time. Miss D not only loves Jenny like her own, but Miss D’s whole family loves Jenny. And Jenny loves them. Today, she didn’t want to call me when she potty’d – she wanted to go tell Miss D’s youngest daughter, who is one of Jelly’s dearest friends, and like a big sister to her. Miss D takes her to the children’s museum, and to the park, and to the mall play area when it’s too hot. She buys her treats, and presents, and does art activities, and it’s totally because of her that Jelly learned her colors. They’re working on the alphabet next. Jenny gets home-cooked meals, and good naps, and learns social skills (she plays) with the other little kids that Miss D watches. In addition, Miss D is flexible with drop-off and pick-up, will watch her after-hours, supports surprise visits, AND gives me a ‘Moms Night Out’ where she babysits FOR FREE one night a month. And I pay less than half of what I paid to have a nanny (which, as I mentioned, was not a lot).
Communicating with a (stranger) who takes care of the most precious thing in your world is tricky at best. Luckily (and, somewhat sadly) I learned a lot from mistakes I’d made with my nanny. I’ve learned when to mention something that matters, and when to ignore the small things. I’ve gotten better at saying things in a non-attack-mode kind of way. I’ve learned to read between the lines better. And I’ve learned that there are a lot of things that turn out to be unimportant when the most important thing is the happiness and welfare of – nope, not your child – the person watching your child. Because that, to some extent, is going to determine the environment in which your child is nurtured.
Miss D has a smile for Jenny every single morning, no matter what is going on or what her previous day/night was like. She has a smile and funny story for me every day when I pick up The Bean. She sends me text messages with little things that Jelly did or said, or pictures of her playing. I get a daily report of what she had for meals, when she napped, when she potty’d, and what her mood was like (Friends Of Jenny will not be surprised to learn the status is always the same; ‘Happy and Energetic’). I think in the seven or so months she’s had maybe one day when she couldn’t watch Jenny, and that was because of that nasty flu that went around in the spring. I never, NEVER would’ve guessed that Miss D would’ve become such an integral part of our lives, or such a good friend. And no, she does not read my blog so I’m not just sucking up so she’ll be nice to the kid. I really and truly am surprised and thrilled that everything has worked out like this, and I’m so freaking grateful every single day. It’s a tremendous comfort, never having to worry about any aspect of the hours when Jenny is away from home, which adds up to a lot – in the average week, Jelly has about 70 waking hours; at least 35 of those are spent with someone other than me.
I know that there are people who aren’t as lucky. I know that people experience all kinds of stress and difficulties in navigating the home childcare waters. If you can find someone who is conveniently located, there’s no guarantee that they will do anything but let your child watch TV for 6 hours a day. If you find someone who has a huge house and great backyard, they may feed your child nothing but Hot Pockets and Sugar Smacks. It’s hard enough finding friends who share child-rearing philosophies. No chocolate milk in the bottle. No bottle period, for a toddler. Don’t tolerate inappropriate behavior, but don’t count to three a hundred zillion times in warning. Be firm, but fair. I’m constantly surprised by how many varieties of approaches there are to the same ol’ little day-to-day things, and happily surprised when I learn that Miss D handles them pretty much the exact same way I do. Again, LUCKY. I have no good advice for people who are desperate to find a Miss D of their own, or want to find one in the future. Definitely check references, and check THOSE references (references from people you either don’t know or don’t trust are worthless, make sense?). And if your gut says it’s ok, don’t be afraid to take a chance on someone. It may end up being someone your son or daughter loves very, very much. And that’s invaluable.
Ok, so maybe she's as goofy as me and that's why I like her so much. So sue me. They are dressed up for free chicken at Chick Fil A. So hilarious. Don't give me any more ideas for posts today because I am trying to come up with ways to avoid work and would love an excuse to blog more.
4:00 pm POTTY UPDATE: Jenny dry all day
It wasn’t even the pee cleanup that got to me. It was the disappointment and frustration that, after 7 hours of doing nothing else, there was something either I had done wrong or that she was incapable of, and it was unbearable. Poor Jenny, doing practice potty runs and sobbing in her wet pants, asking, ‘Happy, mama?’. What was the right answer? Before this experience I couldn’t fathom how a mother could spank or slap a child who soiled themselves (as the book I was following advised against. Like, really?). After the past few days, I could totally see how they could get to that point – it’s impossible to explain that combination of wanting to shake a child, run away from it all, and scoop them up in your arms, all at the same time. I knew she understood the whole thing, but somehow it wasn’t sticking, and that made me crazy. CRAZY.
It’s hard being a Type-A personality and a mom. I like to set goals and accomplish them. I absolutely set expectations way too high and end up crushed, time after time. Setting goals as a mother does not mean accomplishing those goals. It means compromising them, and being happy with incomplete and imperfect, and adjusting as you go along. So yesterday I did just that. I took a personal day from work, and after a good night’s sleep I tried again. Yesterday I did it my way, instead of the way it worked for someone else, and guess what? It worked WAY better for me and my poor little Bean. There were no tears. There was no impatient snapping or grabbing or shouting.
Potty Training Take Two – Electric Bugaloo
Apparently, not all children are alike. What works for one does not necessarily work for another. Who knew? While Potty Training in One Day made us both miserable, the old school put-‘em-on-the-potty-every-1/2-hour (which I previously thought would have made us miserable and crazy) was a massive success. Not a single accident all day. The crazy thing was, I did not do any of the rewards that I did on the weekend. Sunday she got M&Ms for dry pants and using the potty, chips and special drinks and stickers and tattoos. Yesterday she got diluted juice and hugs and high-fives, and was utterly happy. Sunday I sat with her and read books and the potty chair sang to her. Yesterday she was so preoccupied with trying to go that she didn’t even get up when she’d peed; I was, of course, doing laundry and only realized she’d gone because of the little grin she got when she said, ‘Ok, mama, I’ll try!’ (she’s so sly – she really meant, ‘Ok, crazy lady, I’ll pacify you, but I’ve already gone and done it, so there!’).
It ended up being a great day. We were totally daring and went to Wal-Mart for pull-ups and milk (ended up with powdered donuts and more Thomas pajamas, how does that happen?). She did awesome in the car. We played in her pool when we got home. We had a good lunch. We made Banana Nut Muffins. We watched some Wonder Pets. There were no tantrums, and my back hurt considerably less (seriously, I’m too old to be sitting on my concrete slab kitchen floor for 6 hours). She didn’t want to put on pull-ups for nap, it was very cute. When I got her up this morning I put her on the potty and she peed. My caregiver just called to tell me she'd already gone, on the potty, THREE TIMES. Oh, the pride. Oh, the sweet relief.
I’m lucky I’ve got a great caregiver who will continue to work with her, and will put off her own stuff so that she can spend the time at home this week with Jelly. Dudes, seriously, I underestimated this one. Sure, I’d heard the horror stories and know kids who have been ‘in progress’ for like 2 years. But, you know. We all secretly think we're an awesome supermom. And of course, Jenny is the Amazing Jellybean. Oh, motherhood, why do you have to teach me this lesson over and over? Why must I constantly be smacked down and humbled? You’d think at some point I’d learn. Yes, I do know deep down that Jelly is not the perfect child. I just have a hard time remembering when she’s so darn, well, awesome. I have GOT to get a grip on this expectations thing though. It’s unfair to her and it’s stupidly stressful for me. And I have a feeling it will only get worse as she gets older. School, you know. God forbid she actually participate in competitive sports.
Just like in Ever After and everything else with this parenting thing, I have to remember to Just. Breathe. I have to remember that a lot of this is a grey area, but if it feels wrong I should do something different, and that’s ok. I need to sometimes let Jenny lead, and sometimes I need to follow the rules, and more often than not we need to work together to forge our own path. It helps that she's a 'pleaser', but I need to remember that she'll put extra pressure on herself without my help, and I ought to start helping her manage that now. I could tell she was concerned about getting in the car to go to Miss D's house this morning, not wanting to get off the potty because she hadn't gone one more time. Poor little thing balled up her fists and went red in the face pushing. I was like, 'Dude, it's ok, I swear'.
I think in the end it was a combination of the incredibly intense day Sunday and then the constant reminders yesterday (that and the fact that she decided she really liked wearing big-girl-underpants, and has never liked having a wet diaper, even when she was 2 freaking months old). If I could give one single piece of advice I would tell people to start practicing pulling underpants up and down at least a few weeks in advance; to be honest, I didn't think she could do that before now and I feel like a jerk for being so lazy. I'm excited to see how she does the rest of this week, and how she copes with accidents. It will also be interesting next weekend when we're out and about, to deal with the public pee.Thinking about it...
Monday, July 19, 2010
Going to visit my parents, even after 16 years, still feels like going home. Even though they themselves have moved a few times since I left for college, the comfort and familiarity of the small town I grew up in envelops me as soon as I get within about 5 miles of it. Stores have changed, but the neighborhoods and people are largely the same. In high school, me and a friend were totally stalking this one cute guy and we got stuck in the snow in his farmhouse driveway, right before his parents arrived home. I still remember the blind panic and girl-stupidity-hilarity of the moment. He now runs the Bulk Food place. I also ran into a friend who said she might see me at the Canada Day celebration, 'if the milking was done'.
I wouldn’t want to live in Lindsay, Ontario, but it’s a great place to visit, especially in the summer. Referred to by Toronto folk as ‘cottage country’, it’s where they all escape to on the weekends. Lots of clear, cold lakes, homemade butter tarts, and card games in the cabins on cool nights. Winters mean snow, and skiing, and toasty fireplaces. It’s about as opposite of Raleigh, NC as you can get. I was looking at pictures from last January, and there we are, me and Jelly, outside in the sunny yard in light sweaters.
Going to Lindsay means going home. My two youngest siblings are still in the area, with sister N on the coast of Nova Scotia. We all cram into my parents' 2-bedroom with squabbles about sleeping arrangements, who’s eating in what shift, and why for god’s sake the stupid World Cup is the only thing on the TV. My mom plans the meals weeks, even months, in advance - my dad tells us to go relax and he’ll clean up after dinner. There’s no rushing Jelly out the door to daycare. Cool evenings mean we go for a walk around the block, almost every night. We go past the neighbor’s cats, and the park, and the fire station. She loves it. Sometimes we walk the handful of extra blocks to the playground, which happens to be at the Elementary School I attended.
The weather was far from vacation-ideal. We didn’t get to swim as much as anyone would have liked, especially Jellyfish. There were things I wanted to do, places I wanted to go, that just didn’t get done. But I did manage to not pick any fights with my sisters, and there were no political arguments with my father, and Jelly had fun with her cousins and her aunts and uncles. And most of all, her beloved Nana and Boppa. We’ve only been back for a few weeks but it feels like months since Our Big Trip.We're on vacation! Happy!
Jelly tests the water. COLD.
Our view from the cabin. BEAUTIFUL!
Aunt N reads stories to the cousins. Very cute.
Nothing like watermelon on a (look, the sun!) hot summer's day.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
I’m exhausted, but can’t sleep. I slowly, laboriously turn my head to the left. My mum is ‘resting her eyes’ with a book on her lap, wrapped in a blanket thoughtfully thrown over her by someone. I rotate my head back to the right, careful not to disturb any wires or tubes. Cousin J is propped in a chair dozing, managing to look both incredibly uncomfortable and blissfully asleep. I know that’s what I should be doing, but I am freaking the hell out. I always thought wearing an oxygen mask would be kind of cool. That is not the case. I look again at the screen beside my bed, eyes flickering over the numbers and lines like they have been, every few minutes, for the past hours. I close my eyes but almost immediately open them again. Is she ok? To the nurse checking my stats I am silent. I look calm and restful, but the numbers don’t lie, and she knows I am worrying. My baby is in trouble.
The past few nights Jelly has slept from 8-7. I know! Crazy, right? And how am I taking advantage of this? My sleep schedule has been 12-5. Yep. Five whole hours. Five toss-and-turn, kick-the-covers, stare-at-the-clock from 10-12p and 5-7a hours. I assume it’s the work stress thing. I wish I could come up with a way to deal with it better. I got a bad, cheap massage, where the lotion smelled like the cleaning solution used at the hotel I stay at while in Boston, and the exasperating masseuse gave me tentative little pats and asked anxiously, ‘How’s the pressure?’. I wanted to ask her to clarify her question.
I’m postpartum and stupidly weepy. I’ve got the TV on for the 11p feeding, but am watching her eat and sobbing. What have I done? What am I going to do? There’s no way I can possibly do right by this innocent in my arms. All the imaginary horrors out in the big scary world crowd my hormone-overloaded mind. I can’t live with this fear. How do people do this?
My software product has released, but that just means that more people are freaking out. I’ve been assigned no less than six brand-new customers to manage in the past three days alone. This means creating the necessary folders and paperwork, finding and scheduling resources, getting them into training, a blur of internal calls that all seem to run together. Next will be helping with the dozens of assessments, the multitude of questions, then the actual implementations and all the configuration challenges that arise. Weekly customer calls, issues lists, status reports, project plans, service tools – all these things will need to be maintained by me. And this is in addition to my ‘regular’ job.
I stagger to her room like a zombie, tired beyond tired. I was warned about this, but didn’t believe the stories I’d read or the advice I’d been given. It’s the 1am feeding, the hardest one, because I’ve only been asleep a handful of hours. I have a critical meeting first thing in the morning, and it takes forever for her to burp. I change her diaper and am just so done with this whole thing. Instead of setting her gently in the crib, tenderly and 1950’s-housewife style, I drop her. Like, DROP. I’m instantly wide awake, and filled with shame. This is it. This is what I have to watch for and guard against. When things are really hard, no matter what, I have to be in control. It is my job to watch over her and protect her, from everything. Including myself.
I fill our weekends with fun activities. Swimming, shopping, plans for trips to the beach. Retail therapy isn’t helping; it just makes me more depressed that I’m spending money stupidly. I snack listlessly in the evenings, addicted to online Facebook games that are soothing in their monotony. Laundry piles up. I stop eating food that falls on the living room carpet because it’s too dirty even for me. I think about moving. I think about Jelly starting preschool in two months. I make plans, and cancel plans. I fight with Jenny about which shoes she’ll wear, cleaning up toys, drinking water instead of juice, watching TV. It would be so much easier to give up, give in.
I peruse the sales racks, delighting in the cute summer colors and adorable breezy styles. Visits to Canada now frequently include a stop at PleaseMum, the Gymboree of the North. Jenny is running around the store playing ‘Every Mother’s Biggest Shopping Headache’, aka, ‘Hide in the Clothes Racks’. I occasionally spot-check her, and mumble things that she ignores, like ‘stay with mama’ and ‘look with your eyes, not your hands’. My attention is snared by a sales bin of little socks and mitts, and when I look up, a handful of minutes later, she’s gone. I do a quick circle around where I last saw her, realizing too late that she was headed in the direction of the rest of the mall. My heart skips a beat. Bile rises in my throat. I open my mouth, unembarrassed to scream at the top of my lungs, prepared to do whatever it takes to GET HER BACK. “She’s over there”, points an amused shopper at that moment, seeing my instant panic and the toddler behind the shelf. My sister N was in the store with me, and probably never even knew it happened.
We’re getting ready to go to a waterpark this weekend. I’m excited, yet at some point very late (or early) last night it dawned on me that it’s going to be very, very crowded. I consider writing my cell phone number on Jelly’s arm in permanent marker, or fabric-painting it on the back of her bathing suit. I know there’s no way she’ll wear a bracelet of any kind. Maybe I can manufacture some sort of anklet out of part of an old sock that a kindly stranger will check if we become separated? If I pin a whistle to her, will she use it?
There is an article making the mommy rounds lately, about how parenting is just no fun. It’s very en vogue to admit to disliking being a parent right now; to loving your husband more than your child, to wanting more ‘me’ time, to claim less satisfaction and happiness than childless folk. I don’t get it. I love being a mom. It’s thankless and tough and painful and terrifying. It’s drudgery and diapers and frustration and demanding. But I’d still be spazzing out about work, sans Jelly. I still wouldn’t clean my house. I’d definitely still spend my money on stupidity.
I pity the man I eventually meet, because I can’t see how I could ever love someone as unconditionally and patiently as I love Jellybean. I have no problem saying, ‘Sorry, sweets, mama is going to sit on her butt and read a magazine right now because she’ll lose her frickin’ mind if she has to sing the ‘Thomas’ theme one more time’. I feel stupid admitting that, despite a restless weary night, I STILL get excited when I hear she’s awake, because, well, I get to see her. It’s a gift. A brutal and nerve-wracking gift, but a gift all the same. I think a lot about how things would be if I didn’t have Jelly. The end result is always, super-crappy.
Sure, there’s added stress, more dirt and noise and bone-deep weariness. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. I would absolutely say I’m happier. I think that there are people who had unrealistic expectations of being a parent; who thought it was an answer, or a solution, or a reward. It may be a gift, but it’s also a job. It requires dedication, and focus, and effort. You have to always be on your game, or at least, a major percentage of the time. You have to say the right things, make the right decisions. I don’t agree with the ‘helicopter’ style of parenting, but I sure as hell understand it. It doesn't matter what else is going on in my life - Jenny is it.
My biggest fear in this world is getting distracted and looking away for an instant.